I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, but I generally get waylaid by some new recipe or amazing vegetable in season, that the topic of cleaning gets pushed to the back burner, so to speak. Today, however, I’m exercising a bit of discipline and focusing on the Art of Cleaning—without toxic chemicals.
My first apartment after college was tiny. I mean, REALLY tiny. Maybe that’s where my obsession with tiny houses began…who knows? But it was there that I had an experience that changed my life, literally.
The first time I cleaned my bathroom in that small, not-at-all-well-ventilated apartment. I dutifully went to the store and purchased a common bathroom cleaning product and embarked on a mission to have a spotlessly clean bathroom. Several minutes in to my scrubbing extravaganza I began having the worst asthma attack of my life. My chest was tight, I couldn’t breathe… I was terrified. All I could think to do was to get out of the apartment and go outside. Later in the day, on the phone with my mother, I told her what had happened and she gave me advice that I have carried with me to this day. She told me how to use items I already had in my kitchen for cleaning: white vinegar, baking soda, lemon and salt.
Life-changing. To this day, I’ve never had a reaction like that (so long, toxic chemicals!) and a very nice bonus is that I haven’t wasted oodles of money on pricey cleaning products. And I have a very clean house.
So here are a few cleaning tips from me to you…
Using White Vinegar
Get a spray bottle and fill it with white vinegar. Some folks cut it with water (1:1 ratio), but I use it full-strength. Don’t worry about the vinegary smell—the odor evaporates and takes any other unpleasant odors along with it. Vinegar can be used to clean just about anything from kitchen counters and sinks to coffee pots and the inside of your fridge.
Got burnt-on food in your frying pan? Heat the pan over medium heat and when the pan is hot, add vinegar and let it go to work. Then gently scrape with a square-edged wooden spoon and then rinse the pan clean.
If you need a little boost for more intense cleaning, you can sprinkle on a little baking soda before you spray on your vinegar. The chemical reaction will tackle those tougher stains and surfaces.
Use baking soda, salt and vinegar to clean your jewelry. Simply mix a cup of boiling water with 1 T salt and 1 T baking soda and pour into an aluminum pie tin containing the jewelry you want to clean. Then gently add a half a cup of vinegar. Let it sit for ten minutes or so. Rinse off the jewelry and dry with a paper towel.
You can also use a vinegar solution (2 tablespoons of vinegar to 1 pint of water) to remove pesticide residue from fruits and vegetables.
Lemons and Salt
Clean and sanitize your wooden cutting boards by sprinkling generously with some coarse salt and then “scrub” with half a lemon (cut side down). Let it sit for about five minutes or so and then scrape the surface (I use a bench cutter) and give the cutting board a rinse and wipe dry with a paper towel.
These suggestions are really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg—and they happen to be my favorites and the ones I use most often. Give them a try. You’ll have a nice, clean home—free of toxic chemicals and fake chemical aromas. Not to mention, these methods are a lot more cost-effective.
Bonus Tip: If you happen to have stainless steel appliances—and a lot of us do—here’s how to easily clean fingerprints from those surfaces. Spray with vinegar and wipe off any excess debris. Then take a tiny amount of baby oil on a clean soft cloth and rub into the surface (going with the grain). The oil will not only rub out fingerprints, but will also leave a thin barrier to future prints making them virtually non-existent and much easier to clean next time around!